Private detective Joe Hannibal, who has brawled, boozed, and lusted his way through innumerable so-so short stories, here appears full-length for the first time, rounding up bail-jumper Junior Odum at his ma's gravesite in Hatchaloo County--home to poor white trash, moonshiners, battered wives, a bar floozy, a sculptress refurbishing her soul, and her extremely rich brother, who's buying up all the local property to expand his plant facilities. Junior makes Hannibal a deal: if Hannibal will take 48 hours to investigate his ma's death (murder? an accident?), then Junior will quietly go back to Rockford with him. First off, Hannibal calls in ""The Bug,"" an arsonist, to discover whether ma really did die from smoking in bed or whether someone set a fire; when this proves inconclusive, he chats up Junior's kin and neighbors, including shotgun-wielding cousin Reba; badly abused sister Pearl; her mean-as-a-jagged-bottleneck man Vernon; Meg the barfly (soon murdered); local Sheriff Wilt; Clayton and Luann Court, the town's fanciest folk, biggest spenders, and the only ones with a reason to want ma out of that house (for factory expansion); and Courtney, a city gal with kind thoughts and roving hands for Hannibal. It turns out ma was murdered for real--but not for realty; the who and why are rounded up on a moonshine run, with Reba riding shotgun with Hannibal. Overall: a glass or two of moonshine would probably make the story easier to swallow--and Reba is more interesting than Hannibal, though he takes up twice the space.